I caught The Nukes on day one of their massive tour of New Zealand celebrating their third album, cheekily titled III. We sat on the hill overlooking the Coastella Festival music stages, serenaded by French for Rabbits. 

Ben Collier, Dave Parker and Snapper Thiele are The Nukes, and we started off having a chat about the new sound they’ve gone for on III. 

​Dave started off, “We’ve widened the sonic palette. With our first two albums they are pretty much us trying to capture what we do live with a few studio embellishments.”

Ben “Each To Their Own was actually just us standing around a microphone”

Dave, “Trying to get the best live take.”

Ben, “With Lucky Ones we took a more production approach,

Dave, “Tried to fatten the sound a bit.”

Ben, “It was still just us playing on the album, no guest musicians.” III is totally different with guest musicians all over, and a real production eye, with Gerry Paul at the helm as producer. 

Dave commented on how they found themselves working with the Wellington based Gerry (also, organiser and mastermind behind Coastella), “Ben and I have been discussing for quite a while about working with a producer, and we’d never found somebody that we thought worked. There aren’t a lot around.” 

Ben, “We’re not just your stock standard folk band either, we’re a singularity in a lot of ways. So we needed someone who understood that and knew how to enhance that.” That sums up Gerry perfectly. He spent many years playing in Grada, and has written children’s songs, plays a multitude of instruments, helps produce all over the world, does TV shows, you name it and he can do it. 

Dave, “We got talking to Gerry last year at a showcase. He was such a nice guy and it turned out he’d produced a few other albums. My gut feeling was we needed someone with a good sense of harmony, space and production choices of instrumentation.”

Ben,” It was a bit scary to start with, having other people’s ideas completely change the sound of the song, or our own ideas of the song. Initially it was a little threatening even.” The Nukes came into this from being a three piece that all worked on their songs together and within their unit. Having outside input was a totally new experience. 

Dave. “I guess the attitude we took was we’d taken the songs to this point so now let’s think about how they could be recorded and what other instruments could be brought to that.”

Ben. “Embellishing the song while retaining the core of it.”

Dave, “Gerry was really good at identifying that we need to look at setting all the instrumentation in its own space, even more than we were, so he could then bring other things in.” 

Snapper sat down about now and joined the conversation, adding, “It’s like you got a house, you have an architect and you can tell them how many bedrooms, but really you have to give them a bit of license to be an architect,” The Nukes decided it was the time and Gerry was the right person to give a little control over to. 


Finn with The Nukes on the hill at Coastella 2017

Three ukuleles are an interesting mix for a folk band, and I’ve often described the band as a vocal trio that use ukuleles to accompany their voices. And as Ben says, the ukes can often share the same sonic realm. “Using other instruments can really broaden that spectrum. When we’re playing he got us to really empty out our parts.” The Nukes would take parts out that they’d normally play live and allow Gerry to find the perfect instrument to jump in there on the record. 

Dave, “Something like pedal steel, broaden the sound palette.”

Ben, “Having other musicians around can help realise the songs in a full way. Validate it almost.”

The songs were written the same old way, out in the barn in Helensville, where Ben lives. “Making sure they’d work well on stage.”

Dave, “We road-tested them a lot.”

Dave, “There’s a song called Indigenous on the album that we’ve been playing for a little while now, and it’s been going down really well. And when I heard what was happening with the instrumentation, I was like WOW, I can’t believe he’s done that, but it sounds so good. When you hear it on the album, they’ve given it the Wellington treatment you know. Things like that really surprised us, and then occasionally there was a bit of negotiation as we had to say pull it back a little.” 

III is not an album title I could just let pass by, I had to ask. It was given to Ben to answer. ““Three people. Three ukes. Three different voices. Third album, three is just the magic number. We went through a number of different album ideas.” 

Snapper chimes in, “Where it actually came up, I came up with it.” Everyone laughs, yet no one disagrees. “I was reading the whole history of Led Zeppelin and I saw that lovely font and I thought The Nukes III. That’s kind of cool. There probably won’t be a Nukes IV, it’ll be a cool name.”

Ben, “One name we almost went with was, ‘It’s Too Late to Turn Back Now.”

It really is, The Nukes are going non-stop. 7000 kilometres they drove on the door according to Snapper who I ran in to in Titirangi on Monday. They’re glad to be back and doing their hometown show at The Red Room in Titirangi this Friday 7th April. Snapper thinks they’ll let loose at this one. Let their hair down. Go find out. There’s nothing like a live The Nukes set.

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